During your time at University you are likely to be juggling academic work with other demands such as paid employment, family commitments and having fun! You can improve your chances of a successful balance if you plan ahead.
One effective way of managing these demands, whatever your level of study, is to draw up a list of tasks you need to carry out in order to complete your academic work successfully (attending classes, collecting information, reading, note taking, writing and so on). Then, plot these on a weekly timetable working backwards from assignment deadlines.
You will need to construct this timetable in such a way as to accommodate the other demands on your time, always allowing extra time to cope with unexpected matters, such as not being able to find the right book or journal when you want it, computer malfunctions, extra shifts at work or family illness.
This is a crucial part of developing as a learner. You will be required to read, study and prepare work outside the class/lecture contact time and should regard this in the same way as preparation and research towards any assignment.
The practice of developing an independent, self-motivated approach to learning and delivery of your work is essential to your success and to achieving good marks.
Every unit you will study for your course will have a reading list put together by your lecturers to help you develop your knowledge and understanding of the topics you will be covering in lectures and seminars.
You will be asked to read from books and journals, society webpages, government publications and professional bodies (for example, Law Society and NHS). You may also be asked to watch videos or listen to webinars or radio programmes.
At university you are expected to read and engage with a wide variety of material, including books, scholarly journal articles, reports, and other resources, some of which may not already be familiar to you.
Academic reading involves you reading something in depth to build a clear understanding of the subject matter. This requires different strategies compared to reading a newspaper or novel.
Your approach to taking notes will differ depending on what you need them for. When taking notes in class it is important to capture the points that are not covered in the slides/handouts. You will need to practice being selective and make sure to write down questions you need answers to – to help prompt you to fill the gaps in your knowledge at a later time.
When taking notes for an assignment you will need to note key information about the source so you can reference this appropriately and avoid plagiarism. You will also need to consider the context the information was written in and how reliable or useful you judge the source to be.
You will encounter different types of assessment during your course. Regardless of format, it is essential that you can effectively communicate your knowledge. Effective writing skills are therefore crucial to success at university.
Your reading list will get you started on developing knowledge and understanding of topics on your course, but you will be expected to read more widely and find additional information. Learning how to research effectively will save you time and help you to find the best quality academic/scholarly information. These skills are known as “information literacy skills”.
Referencing is a vital academic skill you will need to learn when writing assignments to avoid plagiarism. Referencing also demonstrates the scholarly research and theories you are using to support your arguments and opinions in your assignments. Different universities and courses may use different referencing methods and you will be informed and educated on these throughout your course.
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